Showstopper · Tarts & Pies

Hot Crust Pastry

The next adventure in Pies and Tarts week–and the final challenge this week–is Tiered Pies!  The Show Stopper challenge was for the contestants to create 3 or more tiers of pies–any flavor and any crusts.  Tiers?  Yeah, that’s not happening.  It’s crazy-season and we’re going to be in and out for the next few weeks with numerous adventures (golf team practice, drama club practice, Girl Scout cookie sales, and much more!), so just getting a sit-down meal is a big accomplishment!  Heck this “week” has taken two weeks to actually accomplish.  I think I would like to try to at least make ONE meat pie using hot crust pastry.  I’ve never made that before and I think it would be a delicious heat-and-eat lunch or dinner option.  I think I’d like to try to make pasties sometime, but I think this crust is too stout for that.  Another time.

First thing you need is a recipe for a meat pie.  Now, before you get too deep into making this recipe, you will need to make and cool the filling first, which will take you at least 3 hours.  It has to simmer for 1 hour 45 minutes, so it’ll take you some time prepping, chopping, and cooking.  Don’t start making the pastry until *after* you cook up the filling, and apparently you also have to let it cool.  This is an all-day project, dang it!

So first, the filling…looking at the recipe, it looks like I’ve already over-bought for meat, but we’re talking about 5 hungry people to feed, so 3 lbs of meat is more ideal than 1.7 lbs, which is what the recipe calls for.  I’ll adapt. I don’t mind having a very meaty pie.  Mmmmm…meaty pie….

I made a few minor changes in the creation of this dish.  The recipe calls for 2 onions, but I only cut up one…it was HUGE, and I think when they said 2 onions, they were probably imagining 2 small ones.  I probably should have cut it up a bit more finely like the recipe recommended, but I was running back and forth from the computer to the stove at that time and missed that detail.  I should have just printed up the recipe sooner!  I also subbed in dried minced garlic rather than fresh, as well as dried thyme and bay leaves.  I omitted the dark ale–only needed 1 1/2 cups and it seemed a waste of a large bottle to only use a smidge…I just subbed in more beef stock.  If you are the kind of person who doesn’t consume any alcohol or you don’t have any on hand, I’m sure you will follow suit.  Also had some trouble with the English mustard…I think what I got would be considered such.  Meh…it’ll taste amazing!

Like any stew, you get the onions in the pan and cook them up til soft, but not brown, then remove them from the pan and set them aside.  You toss the meat in the flour and brown up the bits.  Then you put them both back in the pan, add the broth, spices, beef stock, ale, mustard and Worcestershire sauce.  Then simmer for just shy of 2 hours.  Remove from heat and let cool.

This meat pie recipe includes instructions for a hot water crust pastry, but it includes the use of lard.  I found another one (below) that uses vegetable shortening instead of lard, and rather than *hope* that a change in ingredients will still come out well, I’m going to go ahead and use the pork-free version I found, which is this:

Hot Water Crust Pastry (for two pies)

  • 450 g plain flour
  • 100 g strong white flour
  • 75 g cold unsalted butter
  • 200 ml water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 100 g vegetable shortening
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten, to glaze
  1. Combine flours in large bowl.  Add butter and using your hands, rub it into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs.  In a pan, heat the water, salt and fat until it is just boiling.  Pour the liquid into the flour mixture and mix using a wooden spoon.
  2. Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead to a smooth dough.
  3. Working as quickly as possible, take 2/3 of the pastry and divide that in two.  Roll out two large circles of dough and, using the rolling pin to help you, line the prepared tins.
  4. Spoon the fillings into the pastry lined tins.  Press it down and level the surface.
  5. Using the remaining pastry, roll out the pie lids on a lightly floured work surface.
  6. Brush the top edges of the pastry in the tin with beaten egg yolk and place the pastry lids on top.  Crimp the edges to seal and trim off any excess pastry.  Make a couple slits in the top of the pie to allow the steam to escape and brush the pastry lid with egg yolk.  Use any leftover pastry to make decorations for the top of the pie.
  7. Bake for 1 hour or until the tops are golden-brown.  Leave to cool in the tins for 10 min then remove from the tins and leave to cool completely on a wire rack before serving.

(Question:  why would you want to leave a pie to cool completely before serving?  Maybe they’re thinking about fruit pies, not meat pies?  I’d rather have a hot meat pie…but that’s another story…)

I followed the instructions and mixed up the ingredients.  It seemed really dry at first, but it said to kneed it for a few minutes, and as I did, it absorbed all the flour and made a nice-looking dough.  I tried to roll it out…and things went sideways.

So my experience is that the recipe for “two pies” actually only made 1 pie…and barely.  I used a 12″ springform pan and there wasn’t quite enough dough to form the lid…maybe if I used an 8″ or 10″ pan, I would have had enough, but not enough for two.

I rolled out the dough–with great difficulty–and struggled with it to get it centered and adhered to the top edge of the pan.  Or at least, the rolling part was SO much work that I couldn’t get the dough to stretch out any more to get it big enough.  It was a great upper body workout, but just freaking difficult.  I think the problem goes back to using the darn strong flour.  Maybe I should try to use less of it.  Instead of a 4/1 ratio, I try an 8/1 ratio (that is 1/2 cup strong flour and 4 1/2 cups all purpose).  Maybe the strong flour I have access to is TOO strong?  I don’t know.  The only place I can find it is at Winco in the bulk bins and there isn’t a lot of detail on the label.

I filled the crust and used as much dough as I had left to cover the contents.

But, I put it all together, baked it for 40 minutes and while it looked a bit oily on the surface, it still smelled and looked delicious.  I cooled it down and put it in the fridge because we already had dinner (it wasn’t going to be done in time for dinner that night, so I grilled up some steaks really quickly).  I heated it up tonight (another 40 minutes at 400 degrees), wrapped the edges with foil to keep the crust from burning (more).

For all the difficulty in making it, though, it was delicious!  Served it with hash browns and peas.  YUM!

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